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Korean Carthusian Movie

The Carthusian Cloistered Monastery is a magnificent new 2 hour 43 minute movie directed by Kim Dong-il-I set in the Notre Dame de Corée Charterhouse in South Korea. This charterhouse was being built in 2005, which is the time that the film Into Great Silence [Die große Stille] by Philip Gröning came out. This film is much in the same style.

I find it a little harder to follow the fine details of Carthusian life in the Korean version. I would appreciate any commentary on the film that any reader here can give. There appear to be 11 in the community. Normally, a Carthusian community is divided into “fathers” (who live in the separate houses) and “brothers” (who have a stronger community life and do more of the work, cooking, etc.) There appear to be about seven separate “houses” (cells) with individual gardens (photo source). Usually, such cells/houses are in multiples of 12. So, here there are not enough for all 11 of the community. So, some are housed in a possibly “brothers'” section which, from the aerial view looks a bit separated.

UPDATED: Thanks so much to Jane Campbell who responded to this post by pointing to the work done by Roberto Sabatinelli on this video. This has clarified there are six Fathers, two of whom are Koreans, one French, one Spanish, one German, and one Croatian. And there are five lay brothers: three Koreans, one German, and one Spanish. Roberto wonderfully organised translation into English of the three parts (originally broadcast on 19, 25 and 26 December 2020). Those translations are here, here, and here. I have also converted them for you to PDFs:
Carthusian Korean Video English Notes Part 1
Carthusian Korean Video English Notes Part 2
Carthusian Korean Video English Notes Part 3

My favourite part? The relationship between the monk and the bird.

A couple of other features are new to me: a monk touches the hem of his hood as he passes another monk, acknowledging him. And when they go on their weekly walk, they are wearing a fawn coloured habit and without the typical Carthusian bands joining the front of the scapular to the back.

It is wonderful to see such a mixed community – you spot English, Latin, Hebrew, Korean, German, Spanish languages… In the film we see a family visit. We see a class run by a visiting priest (or bishop). UPDATE from Notes Part 2: this is 90-year old Bishop Dupont who has been in Korea since 1954 – he started preparing for a monastery 20 years ago. They have a monthly meeting where they discuss anything. Today it is poverty.

There is a LOT on this website about Carthusians. Here’s a starter:

The only review I found of this film is here (by William Schwartz). His review is not reliable. He begins by saying: “The most distinctive aspect of the Carthusians is that they take a vow of silence.” This is false. Carthusians make the traditional Western monastic vows of Obedience, Stability, and Conversion of Life. There is no vow of silence.

This leads him to continue, “Ironically enough, The Carthusian Cloistered Monastery depicts the monks speaking quite a bit, perhaps as a contrast to their normally quiet daily lives. The rules at the sole Carthusian monastery in Asia, more specifically in the Sangju district of South Korea, are a bit more lax than I was expecting.” That is because William Schwartz is incorrect in his expectations of a vow of silence.

Carthusians eat together weekly in silence. They also have weekly “recreation” together and also go on a weekly walk together, taking turns in pairs. These are occasions when the talking occurs.

Be blessed by the Korean Carthusian video. For convenience, I place here also, a copy of Into Great Silence:

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4 thoughts on “Korean Carthusian Movie”

  1. Thank you for making me aware of this film. Having watched ” Into Great Silence” I was struck how this film presented the humanity of the monks, I loved this feature of the film. I loved it. One felt a connection with these men and despite the hardship of their lives,it was so nice to see laughing and enjoying each others company. For me,a far superior insight into the way of life than Great Silence. I was sad to read one of the monks died in a fire in late 2022. RiP. Thank you again.
    Rev Michael O Sullivan

      1. ( Rev ) Mike O Sullivan

        Dear Fr Peters, My apologies for taking such a long time to reply but no notification of your post was received. The reports are available, just one or two online from Korean news agency’s. It is amazing I saw your post as I took time out to watch the movie again yesterday and this time with English subtitles. By the way, you might keep me in your prayers, my own church suffered a devastating fire just two weeks ago.
        Rev mike O Sullivan

        1. Prayers for you and your church community – we, in Christchurch, sympathise with destruction of buildings; we had devastating earthquakes a decade ago. Lenten blessings.

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